BRANFORD, CT — When asked why he’d decided to take on the challenge of running against a well-known incumbent in U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, Dominic Rapini chuckled.
“A lot of my friends tell me I’m crazy,” Rapini, an Apple sales executive said in an interview in his Branford home on Friday. “He’s got a lot of money. Why do you want to go into politics? It’s so nasty.”
Last November, “when I saw (Donald) Trump made it, I said if a business person can do this maybe I can get in here and make a difference. This is something my instincts tell me that I need to do.”
Rapini, 56, announced June 19 at the Stony Creek Brewery in Branford, that he would be seeking the Republican nomination for Murphy’s senate seat in 2018.
He made the announcement in front of more than 100 family members and friends at Branford’s most popular tourist attraction — only a mile or so away from Rapini’s home.
In the interview in his home a few days after his announcement, Rapini listed what he said would be his top three campaign issues: a new, simplified tax plan, fewer regulations on business, and, what he termed, “real immigration reform policy.”
On taxes, Rapini said the current tax system is broken. “I’m a reasonably smart guy and I can’t do my own taxes. People shouldn’t need to hire people to do their own taxes.”
On fewer business regulations, Rapini said it would help stimulate growth, “and we all know that increased revenue solves all problems.”
On immigration, Rapini said he “wants to create a path to legalization, not citizenship. These people went through great peril to get here. They’re our friends, they’re my friend.
“I want them to become legal, to pay taxes. They can’t vote, but they can participate in whatever state level benefits that states want to grant,” he said.
While Rapini said he is “proudly conservative,” he said his background would serve him well if he was elected to go to Washington.
“I’ve been a youth football coach for 30 years,” Rapini said. “I’ve been a coach in Hamden. Hamden has the widest range of demographics you can imagine in one state.
“When it’s 7 a.m. on a Sunday morning and I have to pick up an 8-year-old kid on Newhall Street and step around a drug addict and a pitbull and take him to his aunt’s house because he left his equipment in the trunk of her car, that gives me a perspective on issues we face that nobody else has,” Rapini said.
Rapini said he also believes in working with both Republicans and Democrats to build consensus.
“I have an incredible group of friends that I bounce ideas off of,” Rapini said, “and more than half of them are Democrats.”
He criticized Murphy, and his fellow Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who Rapini said spend all their time criticizing Trump and Republican initiatives.
“Resistance is not a strategy,” Rapini said.
Rapini also said that Murphy has built up a “to do list and not a resume.”
“He’s gone from college, to law school, to state representative, to congressman, to senator.”
Murphy spokesperson, Laura Maloney, said the senator would not comment on Rapini’s intention to run.
Rapini said he finds it amusing that Democrats spend so much time criticizing Trump for his practice of Tweeting about issues of the day.
“Murphy out tweets Trump 5-to-1,” Rapini claimed.
One of Rapini’s constant themes is “the need for diversification” in the Senate. “We have 60 lawyers in the Senate. “That’s not diversity — that’s millionaires who feel empowered.”
As far as financing his run for office, Rapini said he wouldn’t be pulling a Linda McMahon — former professional wrestling magnate who spent approximately $100 million of her own money in two unsuccessful campaigns for Senate.
McMahon now serves as head of the U.S. Small Business Administration in Trump’s cabinet.
“I have a mortgage,” Rapini laughed.
He said one of the reasons he announced that he was running well before the November 2018 election “was so I could put together a good team of fundraisers” to raise the millions of dollars needed to wage a competitive campaign.
Rapini said he expected his money would come from both inside and outside the state of Connecticut, “just like Murphy’s does.”
Rapini said one reason he’s confident that he can win the race is the results of the 2016 presidential election.
“Forty towns in Connecticut flipped from Obama to Trump,” even though Hillary Clinton did wind up winning the state of Connecticut’s popular vote along with its seven electoral college votes.
“We’re going to flip Connecticut red in the near future,” Rapini predicted.
Both U.S. Senators and all five Congresspeople from Connecticut are Democrats. The last Republican to hold a seat in Connecticut’s Congressional delegation was former U.S. Rep. Chris Shays. Shays was defeated by U.S. Rep. Jim Himes in 2008.
Rapini said he has been spending time since he announced his intention to run “boning up on all the issues” and meeting with supporters and putting together a team of staffers to form a campaign team.
Rapini said he didn’t know, but “expected” that he would likely have competition from within the GOP ranks for the Senate nomination.
“I welcome that,” said Rapini, who added that he would not be outworked by anyone — Democrat or Republican — in his effort to win the Senate seat.
Rapini said he will continue to work for Apple until the election nears when he would “likely take a leave of absence’’ to concentrate full-time on the campaign.